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Will Zalatoris adds inch to driver and gains distance at The American Express

3 Min Read


    Written by Sean Martin

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – This year began with a new rule on the PGA TOUR that limited the length of drivers, forcing some players to cut down the longest club in their bag. Will Zalatoris still had room to lengthen his, however, and the change has paid immediate dividends.

    Last week’s The American Express was his first start of the calendar year, and he brought with him a new driver that he’d been experimenting with at home, a Titleist TSi3 with a shaft of 45.625 inches. The local rule implemented this year on TOUR limits drivers to 46 inches.

    Zalatoris also switched from a Fujikura Speeder 757 TR X shaft in his old driver to a Fujikura Speeder 661 TR 661 X in the new, longer club.

    “What I saw at home was another 12 yards of carry without doing anything, not trying to smash it. Just being normal,” Zalatoris said after his sixth-place finish at PGA West. “That’s something that is going to be huge out here. There’s multiple courses where that extra 12 yards of carry will allow me to hit it over bunkers I was hitting into last year.”

    He pointed to PGA West’s 16th hole, which he eagled Sunday, as an example of the driver’s immediate benefits. He had just a 7-iron into the par-5 after hitting a 341-yard drive. He would’ve been hitting 4- or 5-iron into the green if he’d been using his previous driver, he said.

    Zalatoris wasn’t lacking for length before the change, finishing 23rd in driving distance last season (307.4 yards). He averaged 317.4 yards off the tee at The American Express to rank second in that stat for the week. Zalatoris also gained 15 pounds in the offseason, and said that strength helps him better control the longer club.

    The American Express was a big week for Titleist’s TSi3 driver, which was the most-used model at The American Express.

    When asked what prompted the change, Zalatoris replied “boredom.” He was thinking about the benefits of extra distance during the PGA TOUR’s pause for the holidays and started tinkering at home. He received the driver he used at AmEx a week before the tournament, after texts and phone calls with J.J. Van Wezenbeeck, Titleist’s Director of Players Promotions.

    “Will was intrigued by going longer and wanted to do some more testing during the offseason,” Van Wezenbeeck said. “With TSi3, he felt since it was such a forgiving head that it might open up the opportunity for him to do that. We talked about ways to maximize it over the phone and the last screenshot he sent me was 182 ball speed with 324 carry. And it was straight.”

    The driver that Van Wezenbeeck sent to Zalatoris’ Dallas home allowed the 25-year-old to hit the “burning cut” that he likes to play with the driver.

    “I have a go-to shot with it and it’s 12 yards farther,” he said. “It’s a no-brainer.”

    Zalatoris’ previous driver was 44.5 inches. He said he will still use the shorter driver on some courses, but The American Express and this week’s Farmers Insurance Open were perfect venues for the new, longer club.

    “Torrey Pines is the perfect spot for it, where the fairways are tight and it’s a long golf course where you’re trying to hit it as far as you can out there,” Zalatoris said. “Distance is where it’s at now.”

    Sean Martin manages PGATOUR.COM’s staff of writers as the Lead, Editorial. He covered all levels of competitive golf at Golfweek Magazine for seven years, including tournaments on four continents, before coming to the PGA TOUR in 2013. Follow Sean Martin on Twitter.